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Constructing and Maintaining a Beach Resort in Bohol by a Swiss Architect

Yuchengco Museum in cooperation with the Swiss Embassy Manila is presenting a series of lectures from November to January. Wondering what has Switzerland has something to do in the Philippines history? Three reasons: one Jose Rizal spent 3 weeks in this country and wrote here some of his literary pieces during his stay in Europe, second the Rizal monument in Luneta Park was done by the Swiss, Richard Kipling who won the second prize for the design competition of this monument and Switzerland opened its first Consulate in all of Asia in 1862 in Manila. These lectures are actually about the excellent reputation and high profile of Swiss architecture and engineering today that the local scene can get idea from.

One topic presented "Planning, Constructing, and Maintaining a Beach Resort in Paradise:  Experiences of a Swiss Architect "was the construction of Alona Beach in Bohol owned by a Swiss architect Marcel Brunner that is a great example of the good promotion of the Philippine tourism. He first visited the Philippines in 1975, decided to move in the country in 1996 and found this place in a beach he calls as “paradise”. He said in 1990’s Bohol is a dormant city with a very limited access to facilities and modern-day technologies. But the very first time his eyes set in this piece of sea shore with white powdery sand and pristine blue-green colored seawater, he knew this will make an almost “paradise” for beach lovers and alike. Foreign tourists travel to tropical countries like the Philippines for beaches because of some reasons. First is the dream of seeing these tall coconut trees and probably other tropical plants too in the shores, the ambiance of the place that tells them they are in a different place and the beach itself.

The resort was constructed as a hobby and making profit out of it is only just the second option.
There were only 12 villas or house constructed though they can make more with a maximum of 5 people each and has 70 employees only. The usual range of stay they get is from 4 nights to 21days. They have refused an average of 850 bookings each year because they did not made this resort for mass consumption but rather focused on excellent customer service. Their customers are usually from Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Korea and USA.

A considerable amount of time in the discussion was all about the architectural benefits of the construction of the place from the site development plan, main building plan, the infinity pool so and
so forth which was the main purpose of the talk with lots of architects and soon-to-be architects in the
audience. Since yours truly was more into tourism side, this is what I took notes:

 In keeping the beach experience real sustainable tourism practice, any of its activities should have low impact on the environment & culture and most of the use of local people for employment. They have strict maintenance policies which every problem is treated at its core like there are distinct standard operating procedures for phone inquiries or to irate customers etc. Their mindset is “We’re not only competing with other local resorts but to the rest worldwide so our facilities and service should be world-class”.

Here’s the catch though

Climate change and man-made activities are threatening the beach. Their neighborhood resort owners
are building structures that against the Water Code of the Philippines which is from the tip of the water line in the seashore plus 20 meters forward there should be no permanent structure constructed. Other two mentioned are the Architect’s Code of Ethics and the Building Code of Ethics which as someone who does not speak the language of architecture had a hard time understanding what they are discussing but it all boils down building responsible establishments for a sustainable future.

Bohol has some issues about these constructed permanent structures that violate those mentioned
codes above. There were cases filed (local authorities versus fellow local authorities versus the locals)
but sadly the implementation is weak. As a matter of fact there is currently a resort being developed
just in the cliff of one of these seas and not so big efforts are being done to stop.

How is the resort now?

Relocation to Manila for his daughter’s education, quick access to first class hospitals and a good buyer prompted Marcel to sell this resort recently. To him no regrets after all as life time flies so fast we got to keep moving and keep evolving. We can’t just stay in one place and do the same sh*t over again.

“Much of how we built our environment of our world will look like in next 100 years depend entirely in
our architects, engineers and town planners” says Michael Canares, one of the management consultant of this resort.  He is also a scholar who analyzes issues in Bohol, presenting them in his blog This is a challenge to our architects and future architects of our country.


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